To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many student residential buildings have been identified as having aluminium composite material cladding; and what steps he is taking to ensure that such buildings are safe.
Higher Education Institutions and Further Education Colleges are autonomous institutions with responsibility for managing their estates and I can confirm that they are taking this issue very seriously. They are working to ensure their buildings are safe and the department is monitoring their progress.
Last year, all Higher Education Institutions, then funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and all designated Alternative Providers of Higher Education, provided us with information on fire safety arrangements and any student accommodation buildings requiring further investigation. Accommodation owned by all of these providers has been inspected and, where necessary, tested. Eight buildings owned by five universities were found to have aluminum composite material cladding. We have received assurances that all eight buildings have passed inspection by local Fire and Rescue Services and are safe for students.
A similar exercise also took place with all government-funded further education providers, including 280 Further Education and Sixth Form Colleges and around 1,700 independent training providers. This has resulted in one Further Education College being identified as having residential accommodation in a high-rise building with aluminum composite cladding. We have received assurances that this building has passed inspection by the local Fire and Rescue Service and is safe for students. The college has, however, received specialist advice which includes removal and replacement of the cladding. Work to remove the cladding is expected to start later this year and we are monitoring progress. An application for funding support to facilitate this is also expected within the next few weeks.
Alongside the rest of government, the department will take forward findings from the independent review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, and from the Public Inquiry into the tragic Grenfell Tower fire.